love London. I love going to quirky events and gigs. I love going to winter pop-ups and hidden bars. I love everything about the busy hustle bustle of our capital – and I especially love always finding somewhere great to grab to bite to eat when I head into the city.

Luckily, over the years, I’ve come across a good few staple favourites that I’ve visited time and time again (although I do love to try new places too of course, sometimes an old favourite is just better for convenience). Here are some of my all-time favourite restaurants – and a couple I am desperate to try (but know I’ll love).

Formidable Joy | Food | 5 awesome London restauraunts to try in 2019 | London | Dining | Quirky

BUBBLEDOGS, BLOOMSBURY
My sister took me here for my birthday once and I was fascinated by the idea; posh and glamorous champagne meets messy hotdogs in casual red food baskets. It sounds like it shouldn’t work but it really bloody does. Not only does Bubbledogs do THE best hot dogs but the sides are to die for as well – I challenge anyone to try their Tater Tots and try and tell me they’re not the best in the world. I’m not a massive champagne drinker so I can’t comment on that, but the cocktails are super tasty too. Plus, though the restaurant is small, it’s got a really welcoming vibe.
Best dish: the Sloppy Joe with Tater Tots and Sweet potato fries.

SARASTRO, COVENT GARDEN
Often dubbed as the show after the show, many theatre lovers flock to this eccentric restaurant after hours (or before!) to continue the show. The extravagantly themed Turkish restaurant boasts Arabian Nights-inspired interior and often in-house entertainment. It’s said to be an unforgettable dining experience – so definitely one for celebrations such as birthdays or anniversaries. It has been on my bucket list for years – and since I’m turning 30 next year, maybe I’ll finally get around to going.
Best dish: the mezze’s look amazing – think finger food perfect for sharing.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB,  ALL OVER
If I’m in London during the day or just need a quick lunch, The Breakfast Club is always my first choice. For those who like a bit of old school deco charm with their food, this one is for you. The Breakfast Club is the place to be for brunch or a hungover breakfast the morning after the night before, but there’s also burgers and sandwiches on the menu. I say TBC is best for lunch (or a late lunch, however), as one or two of them also double up with secret hidden bars. If you’re looking to impress, grab a delicious lunch at the Shoreditch branch then approach a member of staff and ask ‘to see the Mayor’. You’ll be led (discreetly) through a fridge door to a speakeasy basement bar. Not so secret anymore, but still super exciting: it’s always my go-to date idea when I’m trying to impress.
Best dish: simply just the pancakes, bacon and syrup. As someone who first tried this American favourite during my first visit to The Breakfast Club, the charm has yet to wear off.

THE LAST TUESDAY SOCIETY, MARE ST
Part museum part bar, this curious venue is worth visiting for many cocktails and hearty bar snacks (the nibbles are limited but given the morbid decor you probably wouldn’t want anything too heavy anything!). The dark and taxidermy decor is well worth a visit; there’s even a table that boasts a coffin with a skeleton inside in the centre. The bar only opened in 2016 and has been a hit ever since; oozing quirkiness and curious Instagram opportunities. If you’re after something light but totally different before a night on the town: this should be your first choice. Oh, and following your drinks and nibbles for dutch courage, you can then visit the museum to hear all about the curiosities on display.
Best dish: the artisanal cheese board looks lush, but those of you brave enough can try a mini platter of mixed insects…

PUREZZA, CAMDEN
It may be vegan but unless you know this beforehand, most people wouldn’t even be able to tell. This entirely vegan pizza place is not only a better choice for the environment and animals but it also satisfies any junk food cravings. Seriously. Healthy pizza and cheese dough balls? You can’t go wrong. Purezza opened in 2018 following the success of it’s Brighton branch and what better place to set up shop than Camden. Also, though it took me a while to get it, the name is kind of witty too = and Purezza is the UK’s first fully vegan pizzeria.
Best dish: it’s hard to choose – it’s all so delicious with so much choice – but make sure you get the dough balls.

I’ve definitely added The Last Tuesday Society and Sarastro to my must-visit list in 2019 – will you be adding any of these to yours? Let me know!

*Please note, this is a collaborative post but all views and opinions are entirely my own.

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This weekend just gone, I spent a couple of days in London due to a gig on Friday night. As I booked the afternoon off work, I was eager to make the most of my time in London so when the opportunity came up to review The Lift of Doom escape room on behalf of Love Pop Ups – London, I of course jumped at the chance.

We headed straight to Hoxton (my fave) to 104 Hoxton Street which was an edgy bar where the escape room (or rather lift) was situated. After a delicious cocktail each for dutch courage, we were ushered towards the back of the bar and into a small lift, whilst the lovely barmaid explained why we were there.

Formidable Joy | Review | Fun Times Immersive Escape Room: The Lift of Doom | Escape Room | London | Experiences

The storyline goes;

You’ve been imprisoned by evil scientists in an old mental health clinic. You realised your only chance of escaping is through a service elevator and when the security went on lunch you took your chance… But what you didn’t know is that this lift had been cursed..can you cheat the fate and escape alive?… let’s find out!

With the creepy music and hearing her locking us in, I wondered for a split second what we had signed up for. With no radio or anything, I have to admit, I was slightly worried in case we got forgotten about. The experience itself was only 25 minutes long (rather different for an escape room), but having been to a few lately for the first time, I was convinced I was an expert on this subject now.

I was wrong.

The tiny room was ever so basic and we both felt immediately stumped. Bar a couple of signs on the wall and a few props, we were faced with virtually no clues whatsoever. I didn’t even know where to start! I think we wasted a good five minutes just feeling dumbfounded, but once we found our first clue, the ball got rolling.

Unfortunately, we did not get an escape in time (although we were told if we had just a few minutes more we would have been fine!), but had a lot of fun trying anyway!

I did have mixed feelings about this room. The small size and lack of props made it so much more challenging than I would have thought but, also, one or two of the props seemed pointless and had nothing to do with our escape..so I pondered why they were there at all. Other clues at the time seemed silly and confusing, but, thinking back, I can understand why they were necessary and the reason why they seemed silly was because in actual fact, they were quite challenging.

Overall, we both enjoyed our experience – however I think those with more experience or who may have visited more immersive escape rooms with better attention to detail may feel a little disappointed. For beginners, however (which my date was!), it was perfect!

I also enjoyed the fact that we got a couple of free cocktails, making it more of an overall experience rather than just half an hour spent in an escape room! The limited space, delicious cocktails and laidback vibe of the bar made it the perfect date night – I would suggest this escape room is perfect for dates or couples, especially if your boyfriend may be a bit cautious or wary about the idea of an escape room!

Plus, the location is perfect= Hoxton is uber cool for drinks afterwards and the venue itself is close by to Queen Of Hoxton.

Would you be interested in trying The Lift Of Doom? Let me know!

*Please note, although I visited this experience free of charge for honest review purposes, all truthful thoughts and unbiased opinions are entirely my own.

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Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited down to Sake no Hana‘s Maple Leaves event – something Becky and I were both looking very forward to as she was already a fan of Sake no Hana and I personally loved the sound of a Maple Leaves event!

Running until the 24th November – Sake no Hana – the Japanese restaurant from Hakkasan Group, is celebrating the change of season with an Autumn Leaf installation using Autumnal red, orange and yellow leaves that will encase the floor to ceiling glass windows at the front of the restaurant on St James Street, in partnership with Belvedere vodka and Ruinart Champagne.

Executive Head Chef Hideki Hiwatashi has created a limited-edition menu utilising seasonal ingredients and flavours for guests to enjoy whilst sipping on warming cocktails, Japanese sake, and whisky.

Formidable Joy | Lifestyle | Sake no Hana Maple Leaves Event | Food & Drink

Fiery red, warming orange, and frosty yellow leaves are used in the installation to honour the Japanese maple leaf season, as well as Kengo Kuma’s architecture, giving guests a feeling of nature as they enter the restaurant. The installation offers guests the chance to experience ‘momiji-gari’, the Japanese tradition of viewing the maple leaves whilst enjoying modern authentic Japanese cuisine in the heart of Mayfair.

The installation has been specially commissioned to respond to the unique space and the season and created by The Edit Events. Managing Director Sarah Kay commented, “We were delighted to work closely with the Sake no Hana team to develop an Autumn Leaves install. This time of year in Japan sees an incredible array of colours, shapes and textures which we have emulated within the design. Adding a modern twist is a signature of Hakkasan Group hence the inclusion of metallics and a sprayed artistic style which creates an urban Autumn install within the heart of London.”

Although we, unfortunately, did not get any decent shots of the installation, the beautiful red leaves outside the ambient restaurant were absolutely stunning, very easily standing out against the grey London skyline. However, the bar area itself was buzzing with a relaxed but friendly atmosphere – perfect for pre-drinks or bar nibbles before a night out in the capital.

Formidable Joy | Lifestyle | Sake no Hana Maple Leaves Event | Food & Drink

The limited-edition menu was created utilising warming Autumnal flavours and ingredients. Dishes included Kinoko misojitate, wild mushroom and chilli yuzu miso soup; Shitake tofu, shiitake mushrooms filled with homemade tofu and wasabi sauce; Salmon kurumi miso yaki, pan fried Loch Duart salmon with walnuts and Kyoto miso; Tori sumiyaki, chargrilled miso chicken with sesame chilli miso; Gunma wagyu beef maki, asparagus, caramelised onion and kizami wasabi. The dessert, Autumn Leaf, is a hazelnut feuilletine and hazelnut chocolate parfait with chocolate and maple syrup soup and a mascarpone mousse.

Some of these we got to try on the night, as well as cocktails and limited edition drinks such as a warming Maple toddy utilising Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Akashi-Tai Umeshu sake, ginger, maple, chocolate and edible rice paper art in addition to the Shisho 54, Belvedere vodka, Midori, lime, shiso, Fever-Tree slimline tonic and Prosecco, and Koyo nora using belvedere vodka, cardamom, mandarin, yuzu and edible rice paper art – delicious!

We only planned to pop our heads in and see what the fuss was all about before moving on to our other plans but we enjoyed our visit so much that we actually stayed for the majority of the evening!

Though the setting itself was high end, the Autumn Leaf installation and the limited-edition menu only costs £40 per person, which is so much cheaper than you’d expect! As well as a beyond beautiful installation (which you really have to pop down and see with your own eyes to believe), it’s the perfect winter evening spent with friends or a date.

The special installation and seasonal menu can be found at Sake no Hana until the 24th November.

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Last night, I faced one of my biggest fears and attended not only The London Bridge Experience’s super scary Halloween event, Phobophobia…but on actual HALLOWEEN of all nights! Dear god did I feel brave (afterwards, that is. I was very, very scared in the run up to the event..!).

The London Bridge Experience is a really fun place to go anyway; it’s really scary (similar to London Dungeons but scarier, whereas London Dungeons is a bit more ‘fun’. TLBE is fun but just that bit more scarier) and I eventually went last summer just in general and really enjoyed myself. There was a lot of fun history to learn about, followed by the actual scare attraction.

Formidable Joy | Review | Phobophobia at The London Bridge Experience | Halloween | Phobophobia | The London Bridge Experience

I was a little apprehensive heading into London last night because a) it was Halloween so it was either going to be overly busy or overly scary and b) I actually thought it would be a good idea for a first date…!

When we arrived, it was busy and we were advised a maximum wait time of an hour but it took maybe half an hour at most. It wasn’t too bad because we had characters walking down the line to entertain us (one kept reminding us we were from Luton everytime he saw us and kept pointing us out to people, haha). Because it was busy and on Halloween, everyone was really in a great mood so it was actually quite nice waiting because it had such a good atmosphere.

I don’t want to spoil what goes on inside but it really is the right amount of jump scares and interaction. I could tell very quickly that it was aimed at adults with the languages and jokes used but in all honesty, at first I was kind of disappointed…as we went through maybe three scenes of a couple of minutes long before being ushered to run onto the next one..and then suddenly we found ourselves exiting the attraction.

I WAS SO CONFUSED. It felt like it was just a very short event spent running between ‘scenes’…however, I felt that something wasn’t right as when we were herded out I had spotted another tunnel…and it turns out (somehow) half of our group had followed the wrong person and left the attraction missing pretty much the entire thing, do’h! I’m very glad I checked because they let us back in again but I feel bad for the others in the group that were just like ‘oh is this it? Cool’ and left! So if you ever go, just be wary when you’re running through scenes and make sure you’re going the right way! It lasts a lot longer than five minutes so if you feel like your time has been cut short, it probably has and you should definitely talk to someone and not just accept it and go home, haha.

The second time around was much better (obviously because we got to do the entire thing). But I felt the atmosphere had improved a little this time, probably because the first group we went with was filled with really quiet people and overly drunk people. The second group was a nice mix of people who got scared easily (me) and people who screamed a lot (also me, but others too), which added to the whole atmosphere.

What I loved most – other than the great sets – were the parts where they intentionally tried to mess with you a little. With smoky rooms and flashing lights, I was constantly seeing things out the corner of my eye. At some points, I was convinced I’d seen a mannequin in a weird pose beside me and then in a blink of an eye ‘it’ was gone. I know this effect is used at a lot of scare attractions but usually, the actors just run around you and try to disorientate you. At The London Bridge Experience, they bided their time wisely. They posed to fool us, they crept up behind us…it worked really, really well and I was very impressed.

I really, really loved Phobophobia at The London Bridge Experience. In the run-up to the event, I was really nervous and the entire thing exceeded my expectations. I will definitely be looking to go again next year!

Have you ever visited The London Bridge Experience? Let me know!

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I had no idea what to expect when I met with the Love Pop Ups – London team last night for CoLab Factory’s latest immersive experience: a horror show named CopyCat.

All I knew is that it was a murder mystery experience involving the small, intimate audience. The storyline followed helping rogue detective Anthony Lawson who takes the law into his own hands, trying to solve the mystery of three murders and his sister’s murder.

Review of CoLab Factory's CopyCat show

I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers but I can reveal that upon arrival, we left our belongings and headed off to meet Anthony and get down to business with trying to crack the case of ‘The CopyCat’. Part murder mystery, part escape room, CopyCat is the perfext mix of immersive theatre and a real challenge. This was my first experience of an escape room and I can admit I wasn’t very good at it..in fact I spent most of the evening carrying round an old rusty spoon, expecting (hoping) it to be useful later on. It wasn’t.

The rooms were decorated to absolute perfection; no stone was left unturned and the attention to detail was amazing – which I suppose it has to be considering we were rooting around and picking up practically everything looking for clues.

But it was beyond creepy too. Dark lighting, blood stains..again, I won’t reveal all, but if you love creepy stuff like me then this will be right up your street.

If I had to describe the kind of escape room/experience it is, I’d say Crystal Maze meets Saw! The puzzles were spot on (if I’d done it alone I probably would have given up after ten minutes and sat in the corner scared), challenging and each had it’s own creepy twist to it.

It’s also my first experience of The CoLab Factory, who put on other immersive experiences such as The Great Gatsby. I am extremely impressed. They kind of reminded me of Secret Cinema too (in terms of how on point they are with creating a specific world/feel), only without the movie.

The CoLab Factory built up the tension extremely well. I get scared extremely easily anyway, but we began the evening in high spirits, giggling at a few silly names of suspects and it wasn’t long before tensions rose and by the end of the evening we were jumping at every little background sound.

If you’re looking for something unique and immersive to do this Halloween, make sure it’s CopyCat. Tickets are only £22.50 and the show is running until the 11th November.

Would you be brave enough to take on the murder mystery of the CopyCat killer? Let me know..

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